Tweets and Learning

August 15, 2012

One small shock arising from the SCL Membership Survey responses to date (the Survey is still open, please complete it if you haven’t already) was the relatively low take-up of Twitter among SCL members. Only 1 respondent in 5 follows the SCL Twitter feed (@computersandlaw) and half do not use Twitter at all. As one who long avoided Twitter because of its reputation as a source of celebrity trivia (what Jodie Marsh’s cat had for breakfast) and malicious twaddle, I am now a convert. It is somewhat frustrating to see that the majority of the 800-oddfollowers of the SCL feed are not SCL members. I would encourage those SCL members who have not joined Twitter to do so and get the benefit of the carefully crafted SCL feed.

The reason for my conversion is that I do now recognise that Twitter is a brilliant source of news and views on serious matters, notwithstanding a media image that focuses on its (many) trivial aspects. Whether it is the latest move by the ICO, revelations direct from EU Commissioners on future DP policy, the latest on the Apple v Samsung trial or the judgment in the Twitter bomb joke appeal, the boast that ‘you heard it here first’ is the now exclusive to the twitterati. lf you can strip away the dross, you will find Twitter to be an unrivalled resource. Richard Susskind sings Twitter’s praises as a resource too; if you don’t believe me, you might believe him. David Allen Green recently wrote in The Lawyer that ‘Twitter can be a rich source of information about clients and their environments. A lawyer who only looks at press cuttings may as well be looking at cave art. So even if a lawyer or legal journalist does not want to tweet, it is increasingly important that he or she understands how Twitter works.’

Stripping away the dross from Twitter is not easy. Twitter can be like sharing dinner with the world’s wisest woman and most IT-law-aware man – and your Auntie Elsie: the words of wisdom are drowned out by news about cats, the latest science fiction TV/film and neighbour’s assumed sexual preferences. And that’s sometimes true even when Auntie Elsie has laryngitis.

The key to a successful venture into Twitter is that your selection of persons to follow must be considered, and carefully limited. If you follow every whim and flicker of interest, you may find that you are overwhelmed by a large number of tweets and withdraw from actually using Twitter. The last thing anyone needs in an age of information overload is to add to that overload themselves with information that is not needed.

I appreciate that readers of this blog are probably already Twitter users. But, if you are not, I have a painless suggestion for your first foray on Twitter. Bearing in mind that even respected experts on IT law, e-disclosure and IT in the law office can lapse into tweets that tell us what they think of the Olympics or even what their cat had for breakfast, you could just follow the SCL feed and your own firm’s Twitter feed and leave it at that. SCL will retweet the things of real value to you as an IT law professional, and leave out the dross (no matter how intriguing), and you can thus enter the Twitter age without being overwhelmed by Twitter distraction. Once you have tested the water and become comfortable in it, you can consider contributing – there is lots of excellent advice out there about how best to engage with clients and your particular law community through Twitter.

One of the commenters on the piece I mention by David Allen Green said ‘Does this mean I have to get a Twitter account now?’ The despair in that remark was palpable but quite inappropriate. No you don’t {i}have to{/i} – but you really should. And you really should make @computersandlaw the first first feed you follow. OK, maybe second after your own firm’s or chambers’ feed.

What’s that you say? Your firm/chambers doesn’t have a Twitter feed? Oh dear.